Wings & Wheels Open Day - Overview

Sunday 4th, February was a fabulous day at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, the first of what we hope will be many such events. Holding low-key flying days has long been our goal, as Omaka has a wealth of heritage aircraft that the public has few opportunities to see.

Taking to the air on this occasion were Great War aircraft, the Sopwith Pup and Nieuport 11, supported by a Bristol Fighter and Fokker E.III, displayed on the ground. The glamourous 1930s era was represented in an aerial display by the beautifully restored Waco UOC cabin biplane and a ground lineup of the delightful Chilton, Fairchild F-24W and twin-engine Beech 18. The WW2 Avro Anson bomber put on a majestic air display, while Yak ‘Steadfast’ filled the sky with dual smoke trails as it was put through its aerobatic paces. Two Harvards joined in the flying, and the Pacific War Corsair, owned by Mike Jones and flown by Frank Parker, made an exceptional guest appearance.

Along with the flying displays, aircraft lined both sides of the viewing bund. As well as those mentioned above, there were Tiger Moths, Polikarpov PO-2, Stearman, Fleet 16, Nanchangs, Birddog and Pitts. The centre of attention on the ground was the John Smith Mosquito, which had been taken out of the museum for the occasion. No longer airworthy, the Mosquito engines could still be run, and this was done several times to enable auction and gate prize winners to sit in the cockpit during an engine start, a once-in-a-lifetime privilege.

Some of the nearby restoration hangars had their doors open, and visitors were especially interested to see the P-40E Kittyhawk progress, another aircraft saved from the smelter in the 1950s by the late John Smith. His Tiger Moth also appeared, taxiing under its own power to the delight of his brother George and family.

Out on the grass carpark was an eclectic mix of vehicles, ranging from Model T Fords to muscle cars, jeeps and exotic supercars.

As well as showcasing a unique collection outside, tickets included access to the remarkable exhibitions inside the Aviation Heritage Centre. This was outstanding value for money, and visitors certainly made the most of the opportunity, with the two museum halls close to capacity at times.

The Wings & Wheels Open Day was a fundraising event, and all profits will go towards improving the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and its surrounds. Thank you to everyone who attended the day. Also, special thanks must go to the outstanding teams of volunteers who made this possible. They included pilots, aircraft and car owners, ground crews and those who took on the less glamorous tasks, such as operating the ticket booths and spending the day under the relentless sun in the car park. A huge thank you to everyone!

-Aerial photo by Gavin Conroy, other photos by James Orphan

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We are open 7 Days, 9am - 5pm. 79 Aerodrome Rd, Omaka, Blenheim, NZ.